The controversies surrounding EVMs have made headlines with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and BSP chief Mayawati raising allegations over the trustworthiness of the machines. Rejecting all these allegations and allaying concerns, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has come up with an ‘open challenge’ to test the credibility of EVMs, according to The Indian Express. “We will on fix a date for this open challenge. In 2009, too, the ECI had thrown an open challenge for anyone to demonstrate how EVMs owned by the ECI can be tampered with. No one could prove it. Since such apprehensions have been raised once again, we have decided to repeat the exercise to put all doubts to rest,” said the report.
The Commission’s move came even as the war of words between Arvind Kejriwal and the Election Commission over EVMs escalated further as the AAP leader alleged the machines used in UP polls would be deployed in Bhind bypolls, a charge dubbed as by “baseless” by the EC. Addressing a press conference at his residence, the Delhi Chief Minister alleged “widespread tampering” of EVMs and also claimed VVPAT machines from Uttar Pradesh were being brought to conduct the Rajouri Garden assembly bypoll here. “This goes against the norm that EVMs used in one election cannot be used in another for at least 45 days,” the CM said. Kejriwal also claimed that in Madhya Pradesh’s Bhind bypolls, the EC is deploying the same EVMs that were used in Uttar Pradesh polls. At Bhind, VVPAT-enabled EVMs were found printing the BJP’s poll symbol irrespective of the button pressed during a trial (training exercise for poll officials), which the opposition parties had latched on to.
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The Commission said no EVMs used in UP elections were moved for the Madhya Pradesh bypolls and termed as “baseless” Kejriwal’s allegations. Yesterday, the Commission said instead of blaming EVMs, the AAP should introspect on the reasons for its defeat in Punjab.
The Commission said the electronic voting machines (EVMs) are kept in a strong room after results are announced till the 45-day period of filing of election petition by any of the candidates is over. However, in case of VVPAT machines, the printed paper slips have to be retrieved at the time of counting and sealed in a paper envelope and only these sealed paper slips have to be kept inside the strong room along with the EVMs. The voters see Voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) slip for seven seconds, which would be an acknowledgment receipt for the party they voted for in the election. VVPAT is a machine which dispenses a slip with the symbol of the party for which a person has voted. The slip drops in a box but the voter cannot take it home. “The VVPAT machines are not required by the law to be retained in strong room for the purpose of election petition and are available for use in any other election,” it said in a statement.
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Regarding the ‘Open challenge’, its has been learned that representatives from political parties will be invited to participate in the challenge, along with people who know the technology, organisations and individuals who have raised doubts about the integrity of the commission’s EVMs, sources said. On March 16, the commission issued a communication stating that during the “open challenge” in 2009, “in spite of opportunities given by ECI, machines opened and internal components shown, no one could demonstrate any tampering with the machine in the ECI headquarters”, according to The Indian Express report.
At the time, the commission had invited those who had expressed reservations about EVMs, including political parties, petitioners before various courts and some individuals who had written to the panel, to validate their allegations during demonstrations. In its communication last month, the commission stated that the outcome of the 2009 exercise was that “none of the persons, who was given the opportunity, could demonstrate any tamperability of ECI-EVMs”. “They either failed or chose not to demonstrate,” it said.
(With agency inputs)